A beginner’s guide to taking the GRE


The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is not a test that you can cram for. Whether it’s your first time taking it or if you’re taking it again to improve your score, you’ll want to give yourself a few weeks to prepare effectively. Before you begin studying for the GRE, it’s important to understand the basics of the test, what it will entail, and the steps you will need to take to achieve the score you’re aiming for. Prior to taking practice tests or working on certain skills, here are four steps you can take to get started on preparing for the GRE: 

Read the Official Revised GRE Guide. This guide was specially crafted by Educational Testing Services (ETS) — the people who actually create the test. It provides an in-depth overview of the format of the GRE, complete with introductions for Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning measures. You can use this information to understand the question types within the material and the types of questions within each measure. The guide also contains a practice test with answers and a guide to score and evaluate your performance.

 Take a practice test. Take a full-length, realistic practice test so that you become familiar with formatting, timing, and the kinds of questions being asked. Your results will also give you a baseline score to improve off of. ETS offers two free practice tests. Kaplan test prep also offers free proctored practice tests online. 

Set goals. After setting your baseline from the practice test, determine your target score. Make a list of graduate programs that you are interested in and do some research to find the program’s target or average GRE scores and adjust your targets accordingly (many programs will have this information on the school’s or program’s website). 

Create a study plan. To make preparing for the GRE more manageable, a study plan that you will stick to is crucial. Make sure to allow yourself enough time to cover all of the material you need to know. Most people spend about one to three months studying between two and ten hours a week. Magoosh also has some sample GRE weekly and monthly study schedule and plans to reference. 

Careful preparation and planning is crucial for success on a test like the GRE. By setting goals and a baseline, recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, and allowing yourself ample time to prepare, you will set yourself up for studying success.